LOS ANGELES. - If getting there is indeed half the fun, then the weeks of anticipating the Who concert, primed the faithful into squeezin every possible drop of enjoyment out of the sold-out Forum date.
As early as 7.15 (the Who would not appear on stage for almost two hours) cries "The Who" and "Tommy" could be beard from the crowed. Pre-performance games of frisbee served only to boost up the energy even more. The Who had not played Los Angeles for 18 months; and within that time they had quietly manage to overtake the city. Tickets for the concert sold out within 90 minutes; kids camped for 24 hours to secure front row seats; and scalpers collected triple the price for back of the auditorium areas.
No one wanted to miss the Who. When the group appeared on stage, the audience rose to its feet and stayed there, swaying and jumping until cries from the back of "sit down" forced the dissenters to return to their seats. The Who looked a little different; the way everyone looks a little differen these days. Peter Townshend was in a tie-dyed jump-suit (no more leather), the usually fringed Roger Daltrey subdued in down-home jeans and a plain shirt. Keith Moon ringed behind his drums, sweated through a tee shirt. Only John Entwistle looked like a pop star, obligingly coming on stage in velvet pants and what looked like a monkey fur jacket (which he later removed).
The Who belong to that small group of rock and roll bands that inhabit Mount Olympus. It isn't so much a matter of being bad or good, it's simple a matter of just being there. The Who, even horribly off-beat, would be just fine. For the Los Angeles concert however, they were good; giving the crowd so much music that everyone wondered about going over the top.
They introduced "Summertime Blues," saying "we never get tired of singing this." Daltrey told us that Pete Townshend had bought boots guaranteed to last two years which fell apart after six months.
Entwistle performed "Boris the Spider" with Daltrey fading into the darkness toward the back of the stage; and the audience kept perceptively attuned. "Magic Bus" brought Daltrey out with the harmonica seemingly attached to his microphone; the audience broke into screams. Daltrey threw the instrument out into the crowd. Townshend, jumpling splits into the air, flew onto the stage with a crown on his head. Moments later that too, made its way into the hands of the fans.
By the time the group made it to "Tommy," a state of careful hysteria and happiness had overtaken the crowd. Even a week "Pin Ball Wizard" (could they not hear on stage? Daltrey wasn't even close to the opening notes) passed over the faithful and cheers filled the auditorium. A long instrumental follwed, proving once and always that two guitars and a drum can sound like the whole show when played by musicians like Entwistle, Moon and Townshend.
Townshend more than once called for the crowed to dance on their seats and get off their rears, but the LA crowd knew better. Guards stalked the aisles, moving any one who strayed from their ticketed seats. It seemed to annoy Townshend that the area in front of the stage was empty, but it couldn't be helped. The Forum has some of the tightest security of any hall in the country.
Townshend gave off with some political polemics and Daltrey insisted they were the bad boys of rock and rolll. Screaming into the microphone "This one's for us", The Who launched into "My Generation."
There are concerts that are magical because of the music and concerts that are magical because of the presence of the group. When the Rolling Stones played L.A. it was impossible to hear or see because of the jumping and the screaming; but it didn't matter. The same was true for the Who. The sound up front was slightly muddled, towards the middle and the back of the enourmous Forum it evened out correctly; kids leapt up blocking viewing and at any moment one sensed that all was going to break loose. But that was what it was all about. It wasn't just the music, you can get that at home with your stereo and your Who records. In person they gave you more. They gave you what makes them one of the best rock and roll bands in the world. Just about midnight I found myself making that statement without any qualifications whatsoever.
With the Who on the bill was Mylon and the Holy Smoke Band. They are a white gospel/rock and roll band with a unique sound and more energy to spare than most bands. Their set was necessarily short and it was marred slightly with demands for The Who to appear; but they did finally manage the impossible - getting the kids moving and clapping and not squirminq in their seats for the headliners to come on.
Mylon and the Holy smoke have been touring this country with some of the top English bands, including Ten Years After. lt's been fine exposure for the group and no doubt with just a bit more push the Georgia band will make it to the headlining position.